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Governor Perdue Announces Public Safety Appointments

Thursday, December 2, 2004  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


ATLANTA, GA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today his recommendation of Bill Hitchens to serve as the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety and Commander of the Georgia State Patrol. On November 9, 2004, Colonel George Ellis announced his retirement effective at the end of the year.

Governor Perdue also announced the appointment of Gale Buckner to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. She will replace John Michael Light whose term expires December 31, 2004.

Hitchens has served as the state’s Director of Homeland Security since January 2003. Mike Sherberger will serve as the Interim Director of Homeland Security in addition to his position as Director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

Brief biographies are provided below.

Bill Hitchens, 57, was appointed as the state’s first director of homeland security in January 2003. In this role, Hitchens served as the point person for all homeland security issues in the state of Georgia. His career spans more than thirty-eight years of government service in the military and state law enforcement. He served four years on active duty with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) before joining the Georgia State Patrol (GSP) in 1969. At the time of his retirement from the GSP as a major in 1997, Hitchens was the south division adjutant responsible for all GSP law enforcement activities in the southern half of the state. While moving up the ranks in the GSP, Hitchens served two years in the USMC Reserve, earned a degree in criminal justice from Georgia Southern University, received graduate credit from the University of Virginia's Masters of Public Administration Program, and graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He also served 24 years in the United States Coast Guard Reserve (March 1976- June 2000), retiring with the rank of commander. For the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, Hitchens was in charge of all state efforts to coordinate law enforcement and public safety operations. Hitchens has accumulated hundreds of specialized training hours and numerous honors and awards, including the Outstanding Military Citizen of Georgia Award and the 2004 Public Safety Officer of the Year. Hitchens and his wife, Norma, reside in Rincon, Georgia. They have four children and five grandchildren.

Gale Buckner, 47, has served as executive director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) for the last 4 years. Under her supervision, CJCC has received and ensured compliance for approximately $30 million annually in twelve federal grant programs for criminal justice related agencies, coordinated criminal justice research projects, and guided the Victims Compensation Program. She also led several successful legislative efforts, including modernizing of the victims compensation statute to enhance benefits to the national average and updating of state statutes to ensure that federal funds were not forfeited. Prior to joining CJCC, Buckner spent 19 years at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). Her service at GBI included director of legislative and intergovernmental affairs, director of personnel, and special agent in charge in the public corruption/fraud squad, the drug enforcement section, and the Metro-Atlanta field office. Buckner earned a bachelor’s degree in urban science from Georgia State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Brenau University. She is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Buckner is a native of Chatsworth, Georgia.